Democracy is a form of governance that alone provides a congenial environment for the protection and realisation of human rights. Its crucial elements include the values of freedom, respect of human rights and the principle of free and fair periodic elections. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 10, 1948 is regarded as the common standard of accomplishments for all peoples and all nations around the world. Article 1 of the UDHR states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Over the years, UNGA and the Commission on Human Rights have intensified their efforts to draw on international human rights instruments in order to promote a common understanding of the principles and values of democracy.
In 2002, the Commission declared respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, freedom of association, freedom of expression and opinion, access to power and its exercise in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of period elections by universal suffrage, a pluralistic system of political parties and organisations, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, transparency and accountability in public administration and free, independent and pluralistic media as rudiments of democracy. Although many autocratic regimes have turned into democratic ones across the globe over the last several decades, democracy is still facing numerous challenges. An increasing level of corruption is one of the factors posing serious threat to democracy. When elected people’s representatives are not efficient enough to work in line with people’s aspirations, they may lose trust of the citizens. This situation may not be helpful for democracy to get strengthened and institutionalised in a sustained way.
The widening socio-economic inequalities are also responsible for weakening democracy. This is because only rich people can win the elections. As the poor are likely to get poorer, they may start showing their disinterest in democracy. With anti-social elements becoming dominant in elections, there are chances of elections being rigged. Such undemocratic activities may create a sense of frustration among the common people about the democratic set-up itself. Casteism and communalism is equally detrimental to democracy as many voters give weight to the caste and religion of the candidate instead of his/her capacity, honesty and dedication to the people and the nation.
Democracy in Nepal has not been devoid of challenges. However, the major political parties that had played a decisive role in the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, 2072 have remained committed to implementing the national charter in letter and spirit and safeguarding democracy and human rights. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has said that the government is dedicated to protecting human rights as enshrined in the UDHR. Presenting the National Human Rights Award to advocate Shailendra Prasad Harijan and chairperson of Shakti Samuha Chari Maya Tamang amidst a function organised by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in Kathmandu on Sunday, PM Deuba said: “Democracy cannot be ensured without human rights. And the rule of law will not exist in the absence of democracy.” Harijan is a Dalit rights activist while Tamang has contributed significantly to controlling trafficking in women and children. Deuba added that Nepal had enhanced its national laws as per the spirit of the UDHR and would keep on doing so even in the days ahead for the protection of human rights.